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Imagine that there is a video site like youtube, it uses personalized content for users based on their Geo, referring site data, cookies and similar. On certain pages different users might see different set of videos offered to them.

Users who came from Japan will see video selection that is more engaging for Japanese users, so they would watch more videos, UK users will see different videos offered.

Also, users who were referred from site A will have another selection of videos, and users, who came from Google SERPs will see video selection personalized as well - hotter, trending, popular videos. Logged in users (with cookies) would see different video selection.

It's not that the site would show something different to Googlebot, but page templates will stay more or less the same, but just videos (thumbs, titles, links) get personalized to maximize user engagement, and even if user is returning to the site in an hour, he might see different videos offered than what he saw last time.

Actually, it's the way Youtube works. Everyone sees some different sets of videos offered, trends, recommendations, "popular in your country" - personalized content.

Will Google see that as cloaking?

What should we do to stay on the safe side?

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As far as i know Youtube delivers personalized videos only if you are logged in. When i open a private browsing window and go to https://www.youtube.com/ they show me generell video categories and say

"You're viewing YouTube in English (US). You can change this preference below.".

So, if you have personalized content only after the login you should be safe.

If you personalize the content for geotargeting or based on the user referral you should give the user / searchengine a link to go to the other possible results and overrule your preselection. Like in the footer:

You are currently watching the page optimized for user from google, want to see the normal version? Click here.

In that way, even Google is able the see all your content (Content for Google referral & normal content) and in my understanding nothing is cloaked.

Moz has a good article about whitehat cloacking: https://moz.com/blog/white-hat-cloaking-it-exists-its-permitted-its-useful

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You can surely do this, this is a type of whitehat cloaking, but something which enhances user experience.What I would suggest is to have a version of the page which is not location sensitive,and serve it to crawlers, or to the users whose location you cannot determine. For location based personalization, you can personalization few sections of the page, I would personally do not drastically personalize the whole experience, just a part of it, to minimize the risk, so that even if a cloaking detection algorithm takes a diff, it is minimal.

Google would not be penalizing you as this is white hat cloacking, and moreover a good user experience would increase a very important factor "dwell time" on your website.

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